Former Egyptian Gen. Saaheddin Shazli, confident that new Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak will suffer the same fate as his mentor, Anwar Sadat, has moved his exile quarters to Muammar Qaddafi's Libya to direct the "counterviolence" he says will reverse a decade of Sadat-inspired change in the Middle East.
"We will use violence to topple Mubarak," Shazli said yesterday in a press conference clearly aimed at the Western nations that, he believes, helped Sadat destroy Egypt's place in the Arab world. "We will continue . . . until we topple that regime and establish democracy."
For Shazli, "democracy" in Egypt means implementation of the people's will -- and that mandate, he thinks, would demand a repudiation of the peace treaty Sadat negotiated with Israel and a reemergence of Egypt as the leader of a united, anti-Israeli front.
Though the deposed general, who was a hero in the 1973 Egyptian-Israeli war before his rupture with Sadat, maintains that his secular Egyptian National Front is supported by a variety of "steadfast Arab powers," it is clear that his host, Qaddafi, has become the prime underwriter of the movement's future.
Qaddafi in recent days has been predicting Egypt's fate in much the same terms as Shazli. In an interview after Sadat's killing last week, the Libyan ruler, ensconced in a tent in his ancestral home of Sebha, declared that "Egypt will be another Egypt . . . I think a new regime will take over this Egypt and the policy of Sadat and the regime of Sadat will not be again in the future."
For now, it is difficult to measure the strength of Shazli's Libyan-based opposition, or how powerful its secular appeal will be to Egyptians. Egyptian officials steadfastly maintain that the front has no following inside the country, and that Shazli is not to be taken seriously.
Nevertheless the short, balding general has become at least the most visible nonfundamentalist Egyptian opposition leader, and claims to direct a united force of five movements and parties, not a small group of fanatics.
Shazli refused yesterday to provide details of the Egyptian opposition or its plans for continuing the revolution. Instead, he returned repeatedly to his theme of democracy -- how Sadat had failed to consult his people and how Mubarak, by announcing his support for Sadat's policies, was perpetuating those errors.
If Mubarak, Shazli said, "continues in power -- which is very difficult to imagine -- what he has inherited from Sadat in the way of oppressive laws would create a dictator, even if he is not one or did not want to be one."
In contrast, Shazli said, "our main target is the establishment of democracy, by which I mean parliamentary government where the president has very, very limited powers, and the real power is vested in the party leader who gets a majority in parliament." He added that the opposition leaders had agreed that once the existing government was brought down there would be an "intermediate period" during which all of the clandestine factions would surface, "and then there would be elections."
As for the Camp David peace process, Shazli said, "If the people say 'yes' to it, we shall accept, if they say 'no' we shall oppose it."
But Shazli has little doubt about the people's verdict on Sadat's historic policy: it would be rejected, he said, because "the political aspect of the Camp David agreement has been to eliminate Egypt from all other Arab countries . . . to weaken her militarily, and to force her to go with the West. Then Israel can defeat other Arab countries and then return eventually to defeat Egypt and to dominate the area."
Qaddafi shares this theory, and goes on to stress the theme he would say is implicit in Shazli's view: that after Sadat, "all the dreams of Camp David and the dreams of recognition of Israel are all finished, and the plans for American military bases in Egypt, the Sudan and elsewhere in the Arab world are all finished."
Sadat's assassination, Qaddafi said, "is proof that anyone who depends on individual presidents and governments as America does now in the Arab world will lose. The Arab people will decide what they want, and now the Egyptian people decided to get rid of Sadat, and they got rid of him."
Both Shazli and Qaddafi expressed delight at Sadat's death, though neither would claim responsibility for it. Shazli would neither confirm or deny reports last week of his group's involvement -- which have since been discounted by Egyptian officials -- while Qaddafi insisted he had nothing to do with the slaying and did not know of it in advance.
"We don't know anyone in the group who killed Sadat," Qaddafi said. "We are against assassination against anyone, against this style and manner."